Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese condiment: mayonnaise with the umami flavour amped to eleven. But it’s incredibly easy to make at home, with a stick blender and a tall jar.
What is Kewpie mayo?
Kewpie mayo, Japanese brand of mayonnaise famous for its umami hit, comes in plastic squeezy bottles with a trademark red mesh pattern. It isn’t widely available in the UK though sold through online specialist Asian delis as well as Amazon.
It’s like mayo, only better, with the umami flavour exponentially jazzed up. That’s thanks to rice vinegar and a dash of dashi powder, Japanese bouillon, in the contents. It is also super-creamy rather than wobbly-jelly because it’s made with egg yolks only instead of whole eggs.
Kewpie like the doll
In the early 1910s, the founder of Kewpie Corporation, Mr Toichiro Nakashima spent some time in the US as an intern for the Japanese Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
He came back home with a passion for, of all things, mayo and orange marmalade. Thus, beginning from the 1920s, Kewpie Corp. has been selling both, as well as other condiments and preserves.
I had obviously thought that ‘kewpie’ was a Japanese word but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mr Nakashima named his sauce and his company after Kewpie dolls, ceramic or celluloid figurines hugely popular in America and Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
They took their name from the Roman god Cupid, the one shooting love arrows. The origin of the doll was a comic strip produced by an American newspaper illustrator, Rose O’Neill. The dolls look distinctly creepy to a modern eye, but back in the pre- and interwar period they were huge with both children and adults.
Homemade mayo in a jiffy (and a jar)
If you’d like to make Kewpie-style mayonnaise at home, you’ll need rice or apple cider vinegar and dashi stock powder. It is available from Asian supermarkets and online.
If you also add a pinch of MSG, it will boost the umami factor even more but it’s optional. The ingredients and seasoning are on authority of Namiko at Just One Cookbook.
But making mayo is such a chore, you might say! Beating the egg while drizzling the oil by a drop, which takes at least three hands to handle, and then it will all curdle at the end anyway.
Wrong – there is a method that I learned from Kenji Lopez-Alt, which makes the whole process so easy, I believe I might never buy mayonnaise in the shop again.
All you need is a stick (immersion) blender and a container barely wider than the blender’s head.
How to make mayo with a stick blender
This method makes any flavour mayonnaise you fancy, not only Kewpie-style.
Mayonnaise is an emulsion, meaning a mixture of two or more ingredients that normally don’t combine.
In cooking, it usually refers to oil and water – as we all know, those two don’t mix. Except they do, if you persuade them very strongly, by whisking or otherwise agitating the ingredients in the presence of an emulsifier such as mustard or lecithin, which is present in egg yolk.
To make a salad dressing, we whisk the ingredients or shake them energetically in a jar. Mayonnaise, to remain stable, needs a bit more action. But a stick blender in a slim container whirls the egg and oil so vigorously, it takes only a minute or less to produce a beautiful, creamy mass.
Proportions and variations of homemade mayo
The base ingredients are: an egg, a teaspoon of mustard and about 250ml/1 cup of good - but not olive – oil plus a few drops of acid, be it lemon juice or vinegar. Olive oil might give the sauce a bitter flavour, while oils such as groundnut or rapeseed are neutral in taste.
Kewpie-style mayo uses only egg yolk which makes it creamy. But in general mayo-making you can use whole egg, or just yolk plus a little water – egg white is mainly water after all.
Obviously, the freshest eggs possible should be used, but if you’re concerned about consuming raw eggs, buy pasteurised.
You can easily vary the flavour of your homemade mayo by adding a crushed garlic clove, chilli powder, smoked paprika, wasabi, sriracha, harissa, lemon or lime zest or tomato paste.
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